Are you struggling with their anger or tantrums?
Make new choices and actions
As I write this blog, I have to put my hand up and say that I did not do much of what I am now advocating when my children were this age. I regret it but with a new awareness now I can do something different.
When I respond differently, my children respond differently so conflict needs to be seen as an opportunity for positive change. Every parent does their best, with what they got as a child, with what they received.
I say to parents “Give yourself a break, you may be parenting as you were parented, you could not give what you never got or experienced, however for you and I; now with a new awareness of what a child needs, we can do something different and, you will get a different response.”
Compassion, soothing and physical comfort
A challenging child is not trying to make your life difficult; rather they may be trying to tell you how difficult life is for them. Therefore, it makes sense that the only way to be with a child is to be kind, yet firm, compassionate not cross.
We may need to get in charge of our behaviour, in order for them to learn how to get in charge of their behaviour.
Children need help with their big feelings
Provide consistent comfort and calm when a child is experiencing a ‘big’ feeling that overwhelms him, he really needs an adult to help him to calm down.
As we have learned more about the brain, we find that it is vital that children are helped with their intense feelings of anger, frustration, and distress. If however, you were left in childhood to manage your painful feelings on your own, it may not come naturally to offer the empathy you never received.
What can you do to help your child?
Take it seriously and show you understand i.e. ‘I know you don’t want to put your shoes on honey…’
Empathy is trying to stand in your child’s shoes and feel what they are feeling for example, they may want to eat the sweet that fell on the street. “You wanted that sweet pet; you’re cross it fell on the street and you’d want to still eat it; even if it’s dirty. I know that’s not easy losing your last sweet, you poor boy”.
Physically soothe them
Reach out to them with a silent hug to communicate that you know they are sad.
Understand and listen
Stay calm yet offer clear boundaries. Offering choices can be helpful as it gives the child something to think about and they feel they have some decision and power.
More important than the behaviour
“I love you, but that behaviour is not okay” means we separate the child from their behaviour. Too often we confuse our children with their difficult behaviours and the child feels they are only loved when they get it right, or when they are good or quiet.
‘I can’t let you eat that sweet off the street that is dirty, but I can give you a piggy back’
‘I hear you are upset; but I cannot talk to you until you calm down’
Finally, never ever underestimate the power of using humour and distraction early on.
Do not reward attention seeking behaviour
The more you reward bad behaviour with attention, the more attention seeking they will engage in. Therefore, go on about your tasks (unless the child is distressed in which case you console) until the behaviour improves.
The moment it improves gives their good behaviour, positive attention. The more we ‘catch them being good’ the more good behavior we will get.
What causes the behaviour?
Often it is simply boredom, frustration or disappointment. Therefore in the supermarket give your child interesting tasks and activities. Acknowledging their feelings when they are frustrated does help ‘It is hard to share your toys, isn’t it? You had just begun with your tractor; when she came and took it’.
Be proactive not reactive
So often, if we have a heart to ‘hold’ their feelings and the head to understand what is going on for them, we respond proactively with warmth they need and they respond more positively, than when we react a little harshly.